I admit I have been using this phrase since I was just a little kid, having grown up in a parsonage family. We did it for a lot of reasons, but most of them had everything to do with why PeaceBang finds such language totally offensive. It is true that our family was sometimes terrorized by women in their later years who seemed, by my young estimation, bent on making our lives difficult.
Now that I'm a older, a little wiser, and now in the pastoral role myself, I can acknowledge that much of the behavior we disliked about them so much was indeed a grasping for a little control and power in a stage of life where they were so easily dismissed by so many.
As a young woman who proudly claims a feminist point of view, one of my greatest frustrations has been how often the discrimination I have faced in ministry has come from other women. It is a jarring look in the mirror to acknowledge that my use of the phrase "Little Old Lady" is a blatant participation in the diminishing of women's power, intelligence, and voice.
Not only that, I realize it robs me of the opportunity to get to know them as people. I have been amazed by the stories of a couple of the older women I've gotten to know already in my ministry. Some were in the forefront of women's rights in my own denomination. Others have raised multiple generations of family, and all of them have much to say, much to teach, and deserve a pastor who encounters them as a person.
I cannot promise that I will have endless patience with every older woman I serve. I won't promise not to be annoyed when I receive unsolicited opinions about whether or not my son should still be using a pacifier, but I certainly acknowledge that "Little Old Lady" is every bit as offensive as calling a woman a B****, or The Little Wife, or any of the other terms so often used to silence women, and I will strike it from my vocabulary. Will you?
(The photo here is a sample photo from clipart.com, I do not know the woman pictured or the photographer who took the photo.)